India lose to Japan, settle for Uber Cup bronze
New Delhi, May 23 (IANS) India had to settle down for a bronze as they lost their semi-final tie to Japan 2-3 despite taking a 2-0 lead in the World Women's Team Championship for the Uber Cup at the Siri Fort Sports Complex here Friday.
Saina Nehwal and P.V. Sindhu gave India the perfect start they needed by winning the first two singles. But five-time champions Japan outplayed the hosts in the two doubles and third singles to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Earlier, 12-time and defending champions China thrashed South Korea 3-0 in a repeat of the final of the last two editions. Olympic champion Li Xuerui, World No.2 Shixian Wang and top doubles combine Yixin Bao and Jinhua Tang had no trouble in easing past South Korea to book a place in Saturday's final.
Olympic bronze medallist Saina gave India the start they needed by easing past World No.12 Minatsu Mitani 21-12, 21-13 to take a 4-2 lead in career meetings. The World No.8 was far superior on court and comfortably kept extending her lead in both the games to seal the match in 41 minutes.
Minatsu tried her best to contain the Hyderabadi but Saina has been in supreme form this tournament and proved a bit too strong for the Japanese to handle.
"It's good that I am beating top players, which shows improvement. There was a lot of pressure to perform but what is important is that I am playing well. Nobody had expected me to do this well -- the media, my coach and parents, myself. No one believed I would be able to beat Ratchanok and Minatsu so easily," said Saina.
Later, World Championship bronze medallist Sindhu managed to only edge past Sayaka Takahashi 19-21, 21-18, 26-24 in a marathon match which lasted an hour and 12 minutes to give India a 2-0 lead. With the win, World No.11 Sindhu levelled her head-to-head to 1-all.
Like in quarterfinal against Indonesia, Sindhu's match once against beyond 70 minutes and like Thursday, she was able to hold her nerve to pull out the match.
But it started going downhill for India thereon as Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa put up a good fight in the first doubles but Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi proved a better combine. The Japanese World No.4 pair won 21-12, 20-22, 21-16.
"I should have played with more positivity. They were under pressure but we gave them chances. I was at the wrong end, both strategically and tactically and was thinking too much. Ashwini was in great form. I should have given her more openings," Jwala said.
World No.16 Eriko Hirose then drubbed P.C. Thulasi 21-14, 21-15 in no time to level the match for the visitors.
In the end, Saina and Sindhu came out in India's last hope to take on Miyuki Maeda and Reika Kakiiwa in the second doubles. But the World No.5 Japanese pair's coordination and experience of playing together proved decisive as they quashed the Indian duo's challenge 21-14, 21-11.
This was the first time India clinched a medal at the prestigious event.